Johnson County Community Foundation leader to retire

An era of leadership is drawing to a close at the Johnson County Community Foundation.

Gail Richards, president and CEO of the foundation, informed on Tuesday its board of directors of her plan to retire. Richards will continue in her current position for approximately one more year.

Under Richards’ leadership, the foundation’s assets have grown from $10 million to nearly $40 million. She ensured the foundation repeatedly received national accreditation, helped complete four strategic plans, guided the foundation as it took control of a private foundation and was a founding member of the 100+ Women Who Care initiative.

“I have been so honored to have served as the president and CEO of the Johnson County Community Foundation for the past 14 years. We have a fantastic team at JCCF and, while I will miss everyone upon my retirement, I am confident that the direction of the foundation will continue to be one of progress and effectiveness in connecting people who care with causes that matter,” Richards said in a press release.

Richards has served as president and CEO of the foundation since March of 2009. Prior to her appointment at the foundation, she served for nearly a decade as executive director of the Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.

She also worked as a business development officer for Lincoln/First Merchants Bank, associate director of United Way of Johnson County, planning and research associate for United Way of Central Indiana and budget analyst for Legislative Services Agency for the State of Indiana.

She currently oversees five members of the professional staff and works closely with the board of directors, consisting of 19 community members from throughout Johnson County.

Working together with all of those entities, Richards oversaw the massive growth of the foundation’s assets. Those assets have allowed annual investment in the community of over $2 million and management of 350 charitable funds.

“Gail Richards has led the foundation to the dawn of new horizons for the future of our community. Gail leaves an impressive legacy for the future leader of the organization and I am very grateful for her passion, leadership and dedication,” said Steve Spencer, chair of the foundation board.

One of the greatest challenges facing the foundation came during the COVID-19 pandemic. To assist agencies faced with a near-total loss of funding, Richards led the creation of the Emergency COVID Fund.

The foundation’s board initially allocated $50,000 to the fund, while local donors contributed thousands of dollars more. Additional donations came in, and the community foundation pledged an additional $50,000 to the fund.

Grants from the fund went to support food pantries as thousands of local residents struggle with hunger. The Ivy Tech Foundation was able to support students in need with help from the foundation, while the Humane Society of Johnson County was able to spay and neuter animals during the virus lockdown. The money has been used to feed the hungry, support a virtual preschool and purchase COVID testing equipment.

“We’re doing exactly what we need to do in reacting to the emergency situations during this year,” Richards said in 2020.

The foundation currently operates the Employer Resource Network (ERN) program that was established in Johnson County targeting workforce development. The program helps local corporations retain employees by providing personal coaching to employees facing personal challenges to remaining as valuable employees. Johnson County was one of 11 counties in the state to receive grants from Lilly Endowment to establish it.

The executive committee of the board of directors will begin immediately to implement succession planning, including an open search for a successor to the position, and make recommendations to the full board of directors which will have the final authority in naming the successor.